Enrique hopes to become a Kop hero like Carragher

Jose Enrique has outlined his ambition to follow in the footsteps of Jamie Carragher and establish himself as a Liverpool legend.

Carragher will call time on his career at the end of this season, having played over 700 times for the club and serving with distinction since making his first-team debut in 1996.

The 35-year-old has won the FA Cup twice, the League Cup on three occasions and was memorably part of the side that was victorious in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan.

Enrique, who joined Liverpool in 2011 from Newcastle, has paid tribute to Carragher’s attitude and application and stated his desire to emulate his exploits.

“One of the reasons I came here was Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and now Luis Suarez,” he told LFCTV.

“These are players that have amazing history at the club and I want to try to be like them in the future here.

“You have to respect the past he [Carragher] has here – he’s a player that has played 700 games.

“It’s not lucky, he deserves it.

“He has been an amazing player for Liverpool for many years and he’s an example for any player here.”

It is approaching two years since Enrique swapped Tyneside for Merseyside and the 27-year-old feels he developed as a player following his move to Liverpool.

“It was one of the best decisions in my life, in terms of football,” said the Spaniard.

“Of course, I already played for a good club at Newcastle, but you can’t compare one club with the other in terms of history.

“I’m really happy with my decision to be here; it’s my second season and I’m playing a lot, like last year. I’m improving a lot as a player and a person as well.”

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Zanetti ruled out for six months after Achilles op

Inter defender Javier Zanetti is set for six months on the sidelines following successful Achilles tendon surgery.

The club captain, who has made close to 850 appearances for the Italian side, ruptured his Achilles during Sunday’s Serie A defeat to Palermo.

But, after operating on the 39-year-old, Professor Franco Benazzo has revealed that everything went to plan.

“The operation was a complete success, it lasted around an hour, an hour and a quarter,” he said.

“How long will it take him to recover? He’ll have his foot in a cast for the next three weeks and won’t be able to walk on it, then he will start to walk in phase two of his physiotherapy.

“As ever in cases like these we’re looking at six months out of action, just as we’ve seen from other examples in recent times.

“Does his incredible physique give him an advantage? He’s proved it by playing until the age of 40 and he will do so again.

“Is there a chance he might lose a bit of fitness after an operation like this? In general terms no, but locally the muscle mass will decrease slightly during the time his foot’s immobile.”

There has been speculation since Sunday’s game over whether or not Zanetti will play again for Inter, but club president Massimo Moratti expects him to return.

“It’s very sad, I feel really bad for him,” said Moratti.

“He knows that, I spoke to him straight after it happened. But with his character he’ll be back, no doubt about it. He will be back playing his best.”

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Schweinsteiger wary of ´dangerous´ Barcelona

Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger believes Barcelona are more than capable of reaching the UEFA Champions League final.

The German side hold a four-goal lead over the La Liga table-toppers going into Wednesday’s semi-final second leg, but the midfielder believes they will have to play at their best to reach the Wembley showpiece.



Barca beat Bayern 4-0 in a quarter-final tie in 2009 and Schweinsteiger has told his team-mates to blank out the atmosphere at Camp Nou and focus on the match.



“Barcelona can turn the tie around – they are capable of it,” he said.



“Barcelona have been wounded so that makes them dangerous. The first leg has opened the door but we haven’t crossed the threshold yet.



“It’ll be a difficult match as few teams have stood up to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. We have to be even more focused than in the first leg. It’ll be tough because Barcelona are capable of great things.



“The pitch is slightly larger so it might be tough for those who haven’t played here before.



“The Barcelona fans will get behind their team, but we have to stay focused on our objective and forget what is around us.



“It’s always an honour to represent this club and these nights are always special. We have to be ourselves and we want to represent the club because we’re proud of it.



“It’s an honour to play this match. We are in top form and it is great to be able to play at Camp Nou, really motivating.”

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Pique ´100 percent´ confident Barca will turn Bayern tie around

Gerard Pique is fully confident Barcelona can recover from their first-leg defeat at Bayern Munich to make the UEFA Champions League final.

The Catalan side were thrashed 4-0 in the Allianz Arena, with Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben adding to Thomas Muller’s double to leave the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions with one foot of the final.

But Pique insists that Tito Vilanova’s side are more than capable of turning the scoreline around, providing they can strike early at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

He said: “We believe we will turn this around 100 per cent. We need to score a goal as soon as possible to get more and more confident.

“After a 4-0 result you do doubt yourself, but as days go on, you suddenly believe you can do this. Football is very psychological.

“The team is fine, and very confident that we will do all we can to stay alive for the whole match.

“We need to not concede goals, score at least one early on and fight until the end. We represent a club that does not consider giving up, a club that has won a lot and has a long history. We represent Barcelona and we will want to give a good image.

“I remember when I was seven and we lost 4-0 against AC Milan [in the final] and I remember how my father was when we lost. Tomorrow we can be childlike in the sense that we can believe and we can dream, but it is going to be very hard.”

Lionel Messi sc
0000086B
ored twice as Barcelona beat the Germans 4-0 at home in 2009 and, although Pique expects a much tougher test this time round, the World Cup-winner hopes that having the Argentine star fully-fit will be vital if they are to score they goals they need.

“We won 4-0 in 2009 but they are a different team, a lot better team, with a different coach and different players. It is very different. They are much better than that team,” Pique continued.

“We have to open up the pitch, have the ball and play fast football. In recent years we have proved we can beat anyone in any situation.

“We need the fans to back us and try to feel we are not knocked out of the Champions League yet. We have to try to find all the right circumstances to win the match. If everything goes in our favour, we can do it.

“Tomorrow we have 90 minutes to hit Bayern psychologically with the help of the fans. They could also score a goal and then to score six goals is a lot tougher. But we believe.

“We know what [Lionel] Messi means. He is the best in the world and to have him in the team is the best news. We need everyone, especially Messi. I do not want us to commit mistakes because we have enough work as it is to play a good match and be better than the opponent.

“We do not have anything to prove because we have done it time and time again. If tomorrow we have enough desire to win, it is because we want to prove we can do it and for the fans. We want to do it for them. The fans are grateful to this team and they deserve for us to play a good match tomorrow.”
Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Pique ´100 percent´ confident Barca will turn Bayern tie around

Gerard Pique is fully confident Barcelona can recover from their first-leg defeat at Bayern Munich to make the UEFA Champions League final.

The Catalan side were thrashed 4-0 in the Allianz Arena, with Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben adding to Thomas Muller’s double to leave the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions with one foot of the final.

But Pique insists that Tito Vilanova’s side are more than capable of turning the scoreline around, providing they can strike early at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

He said: “We believe we will turn this around 100 per cent. We need to score a goal as soon as possible to get more and more confident.

“After a 4-0 result you do doubt yourself, but as days go on, you suddenly believe you can do this. Football is very psychological.

“The team is fine, and very confident that we will do all we can to stay alive for the whole match.

“We need to not concede goals, score at least one early on and fight until the end. We represent a club that does not consider giving up, a club that has won a lot and has a long history. We represent Barcelona and we will want to give a good image.

“I remember when I was seven and we lost 4-0 against AC Milan [in the final] and I remember how my father was when we lost. Tomorrow we can be childlike in the sense that we can believe and we can dream, but it is going to be very hard.”

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat the Germans 4-0 at home in 2009 and, although Pique expects a much tougher test this time round, the World Cup-winner hopes that having the Argentine star fully-fit will be vital if they are to score they goals they need.

“We won 4-0 in 2009 but they are a different team, a lot better team, with a different coach and different players. It is very different. They are much better than that team,” Pique continued.

“We have to open up the pitch, have the ball and play fast football. In recent years we have proved we can beat anyone in any situation.

“We need the fans to back us and try to feel we are not knocked out of the Champions League yet. We have to try to find all the right circumstances to win the match. If everything goes in our favour, we can do it.

“Tomorrow we have 90 minutes to hit Bayern psychologically with the help of the fans. They could also score a goal and then to score six goals is a lot tougher. But we believe.

“We know what [Lionel] Messi means. He is the best in the world and to have him in the team is the best news. We need everyone, especially Messi. I do not want us to commit mistakes because we have enough work as it is to play a good match and be better than the opponent.

“We do not have anything to prove because we have done it time and time again. If tomorrow we have enough desire to win, it is because we want to prove we can do it and for the fans. We want to do it for them. The fans are grateful to this team and they deserve for us to play a good match tomorrow.”
Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Reid signs new deal; Kondogbia dreams of playing for Real Madrid

West Ham United centre-back Winston Reid has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal at Upton Park.

West Ham United centre-back Winston Reid has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal at Upton Park, according to Sky Sports.

Reid, 24, joined the Hammers from Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland for an undisclosed transfer fee in August 2010.

Over the past two seasons, the New Zealand international has become a first-team regular in central defence for West Ham. The 24-year-old oftentimes features alongside Wales international James Collins.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here,” said Reid. “It’s a good club and we’ve done really well over the last couple of years. Now, I’m looking forward to the next two years.

“I think I have played some good football over the last two years but that goes for the whole team as well. Hopefully we can continue that. Of course we now plan to build on the last two seasons.”

Reid has scored one goal in 33 English Premier League matches for West Ham (11-9-15), who are currently 10th in the league table, this season.

Thanks in large part to the Reid-Collins Partnership, the Hammers have let in fewer goals, 49, than their fellow promotees in 2012-13, with Reading (5-10-20; 20th place) and Southampton (9-12-14; 13th place) having conceded 65 and 57 respectively.

West Ham are scheduled to host Tyneside strugglers Newcastle United at Upton Park on Saturday, 4 May.

Kondogbia dreams of playing for Real Madrid

Sevilla FC midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, who is reportedly attracting interest from Arsenal, has revealed his ‘dream’ of playing for Real Madrid, Sky Sports understands.

Kondogbia, 20, joined Sevilla from French Ligue 2 side RC Lens last summer.

The France Under-20 international has impressed many managers and scouts, including Arsene Wenger, with a number of fine performances since arriving at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.

When asked about the Gunners reported interest in Kondogbia, Wenger said: ”I don’t really want to talk about Kondogbia too much because everyone’s after him at the moment.

“When you ask ‘Are you also interested?’ what do you expect me to say?”

However, Kondogbia, who made his profession debut for Lens against French giants Olympique Lyonnais in November 2010, would prefer a move to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, and rightfully so. After all, he has dreamed of playing for Real Madrid since he was a boy.

“My preference? Real Madrid has been my dream since I was a small boy,” revealed the France youth international.

“It is always great to see that clubs are following you and want you. On the Real Madrid thing that would be a dream come true. But it is only a rumour at the moment.

“With that type of team I could play regularly in the Champions League.”

Kondogbia has made 32 competitive appearances for Sevilla this season, netting one goal.

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Vilanova: Barcelona will fight to the end

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has promised that his side will “fight to the end” of their UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.

The La Liga leaders require a significant turnaround to reach the tournament final, having suffered a 4-0 defeat in the first leg of the teams’ last-four meeting in Germany.

However, Vilanova is refusing to write off his side’s chances, and is expecting a vociferous Camp Nou crowd to boost the team on Wednesday.

“I expect that we will be ourselves – that we will try to be better than Bayern,” he said. “We know we have to score, I know we can do that.

“We should be ourselves – that is the important thing. Scoring goals but also playing good football. It is very obvious we cannot concede, it will make it that much harder, but we have to get goals as well.

“The players are aware of the difficulty of the match. We are Barcelona and we cannot take this tie for being lost already. If we do not make it, we have to hold our heads high, fight until the end and have our fans feel proud about us.

“We know we need the fans. It is not the same to have a quiet stadium compared to a stadium full of people cheering. Bayern had everyone cheering for them and that helped them without a doubt. But we cannot always ask the fans for help, we also have to give them something back in return.”

Vilanova went on to emphasise the importance of Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi to Barcelona’s hopes, with the pair having been sidelined through injury at various points during the campaign.

“When I said that without Pique we would not be the same team, I mean it. His season has been excellent. The fact that we have conceded goals has to do with the fact some players have been injured,” he continued.

“We know how important Messi is in our team especially when it comes to scoring goals. The better he plays, the better for the team. But we cannot put all the pressure on his shoulders, the rest of the team also has to help him. Obviously Messi will have a lot to say in tomorrow’s match.”

The 44-year-old coach revealed that Javier Mascherano will not feature due to injury, while Sergio Busquets’ participation is also in doubt.

“Mascherano will not be able to play tomorrow. He needs six weeks to recover and only four have gone by, so he will not be in the team,” he added.

“Sergio Busquets and some others are still suffering from minor injuries. We will see after the training session if Busquets is fit to play. “
Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Rodgers keen for more transfer success

Brendan Rodgers says he is hopeful Liverpool can repeat their January success when entering the transfer market at the end of the season.

The Merseyside club reinforced their attack with the signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho during a productive mid-season transfer window.

And with both players having made a positive impression since their arrivals, Rodgers is aiming for more of the same.

“The club respect where we need to strengthen and where we need to improve,” the 40-year-old told Sky Sports.

“We have seen from the last window in January, we got our business done early and brought in two outstanding players in Sturridge and Coutinho.

“Hopefully we will have a similar impact in the summer. If we can do that, that will make me really happy with the group going forward.

“I just think we need a bit more depth and a bit more quality.

“The players this year have done very well. I have asked everything of them and, in the main, they have done very well.

“The majority of the time, there have not been too many performances where I have been really disappointed.”
Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Europa League preview: Benfica v Fenerbahce

Benfica’s home form could get them across the line in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final versus Fenerbahce.

Although Fenerbahce enter Thursday’s match at the Estadio da Luz with a 1-0 lead, following their triumph in Istanbul last week, Benfica will have plenty of confidence at their home stadium as they have lost there just once all season.

Barcelona defeated Benfica in the UEFA Champions League’s group stage in October, but the leaders of Portugal’s Liga Sagres have only missed out on victory on three other occasions, with draws against Sporting Braga, Porto and Pacos de Ferreira.

Benfica’s impressive home record extends even further in the Europa League as the Lisbon-based club have not lost in 14 matches, with their last defeat coming at the hands of Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv in December 2008.

But Fenerbahce will hold out hope they can catch their hosts on the break at the Estadio da Luz, as Benfica have only kept two clean sheets at home in continental competition in 2012-13.

Because of his team’s frail defensive record in Europe this season, Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus is likely to rely on his squad’s attacking strengths.

Oscar Cardozo and Ola John have been Jesus’ leading marksmen in Europe this campaign.

Paraguay’s Cardozo has scored six goals and produced two assists, while his Dutch team-mate has struck twice and set up another two goals.

Fenerbahce won last week’s first leg thanks to Egemen Korkmaz’s header in the 72nd minute, but the Turkish club could have taken an even larger lead to Portugal had Moussa Sow, Cristian Baroni and Dirk Kuyt scored instead of hitting the woodwork.

Baroni’s miss was particularly glaring, as the Brazilian midfielder cracked his penalty onto the post in first-half stoppage time, while for Benfica, Nicolas Gaitan also clipped the woodwork in the second half.

Benfica bounced back from that loss with a 2-1 win away to Maritimo on Monday to move within a win of wrapping up the Liga Sagres title, while Fenerbahce defeated Kayserispor 2-1, with Baroni converting an 89th-minute penalty to clinch victory.

Baroni has been crucial to Fenerbahce head coach Aykut Kocaman this season with the 29-year-old playmaker having scored 11 goals and created another 10 in all competitions.

The winner of the two-legged semi-final will face either Chelsea or FC Basel in the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena on May 15.

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed

Europa League Preview: Chelsea v Basel

Chelsea can secure a spot in their second European final in two seasons on Thursday if they can hold off Basel at Stamford Bridge.

Rafael Benitez’s team are already in the box seat to progress to the May 15 final at the Amsterdam Arena after securing a 2-1 victory in the first leg in Basel last week, and a positive result at home will set up a final meeting with either Fenerbahce or Benfica.

The thought of competing for and ultimately winning the UEFA Europa League would not have been at the forefront of many Chelsea supporters’ minds last year when they embarked on the defence of their first UEFA Champions League crown.

But with their indifferent league form and a 3-0 loss to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League – from which they were eliminated at the first hurdle – costing former boss Roberto Di Matteo his job, the UEFA Europa League is the club’s last hope for silverware after a disappointing campaign.

Benitez’s first priority, however, will be securing UEFA Champions League football for next term.

With league games to come in the next three weeks against Manchester United, Spurs, Aston Villa and Everton, plus Arsenal and Spurs breathing down their necks for a top-four finish in the Premier League, most of the Spaniard’s energies will be focused in that direction.

But the UEFA Europa League is still a fair consolation prize, and Chelsea’s form since entering the knock-out stages in February has been strong.

They have accounted for Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan on their way to the semi-final tussle with Basel.

The Swiss team, meanwhile, defeated Ukrainian outfit Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Zenit St Petersburg and Spurs to make the last four, and they will be desperate to overturn the first-leg deficit as they attempt to win their first continental trophy.

The will be looking for Marco Streller to get his name on the scoresheet, with the 31-year-old leading their goal charts in both the Swiss Super League with 14 goals, and the UEFA Europa League with four.

Tue 30 April, 2013
RSS Feed